The state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is deciding how state land in the Bristol Bay region will be managed for the next 20 years.
BACKGROUND: Courtesy of Alaska Marine Conservation Council
The original Bristol Bay Area Management Plan in 1984 classified 11 million acres lands with a focus for long-term conservation of natural resources by balancing development with habitat conservation. About 80% of the valuable Kvichak and Nushagak watershed and surrounding areas were co-classified as habitat and some other use.
In 2005 the DNR created a drastically different plan that abandoned the 1984 plan, threw out the requirement that multiple uses be compatible, and reclassified much of the land previously co-classified as habitat as simply resource management areas. That opened the door to large scale development, such as mining, that could be carried out without concern for preserving wild salmon habitat on which the region’s rich subsistence and commercial economies depend.
Out of concern that the State’s 2005 plan did not strike a balance between development and protecting fish and wildlife, or the region’s subsistence users and businesses, six Bristol Bay Tribes as well as commercial and sport fishing organizations sued DNR over the 2005 plan. As a result of the lawsuit, DNR agreed to revise the 2005 Plan and recently released their revised 2013 draft.
However, the proposed land management classifications fail to protect the renewable living resources and the clean water that are vital to Alaska Native communities and the backbone of the sport fishing, sport hunting and commercial salmon fishing industries that generate over $100 million annually in the region.
The Citizen’s Alternative Bristol Bay Area Plan revises the area-wide management guidelines to ensure that fish and wildlife habitat, recreation, and subsistence in the Kvichak and Nushagak watersheds are protected. The Citizen’s Alternative supporst the core renewable assets of the Bristol Bay region by increasing habitat classification for fish and wildlife and requiring that any development proposed on land co-classified as habitat be compatible with preserving other uses, like fishing and subsistence, occurring on that land.
Send comments by MONDAY, MAY 6 to: (A Sample Letter is below)
Mr. Bruce Phelps, Section Chief
Alaska Department of Natural Resources
550 West 7th Avenue, Suite 1050
Anchorage, AK 99501
Sample letter —
Dear Mr. Phelps:
As an Alaskan resident I am writing to provide comment on the State of Alaska’s Department of Natural Resources revisions to the 2005 Bristol Bay Area Plan (BBAP). Revisions to the BBAP released in early 2013 fail to provide adequate protection for the Bristol Bay regions valuable, living renewable resources or for the people who use and rely on those resources.
Therefore, I am writing to formally support the Citizen’s Alternative Bristol Bay Area Plan, submitted by Bristol Bay area Alaska Native tribes, commercial and sport fishermen and a variety of Bristol Bay-based business interests. The Citizen’s Alternative recommends that DNR include these additional revisions in the 2013 Bristol Bay Area Plan:
- Increase habitat classifications for wildlife and fish.
- Prohibit metallic sulfide mines in the Nushagak and Kvichak drainages.
- Implement a new Mineral Closing Order that would ban new mining claims on or along salmon spawning streams threatened by mining.
- Use voluntary cooperative planning.
- Reestablish the system used in the 1984 plan that automatically reserved water levels for fish and if someone wanted to take water out of a stream, they had to prove no harm to fish.
- Create a Bristol Bay Advisory Board made up of local resident.
- Implement the precautionary principle when making land management decisions as it was adopted by the Alaska Board of Fisheries (this principle states that if you don’t know what outcomes your actions might have, err on the side of caution).
- Operate under the presumption that all waters in Bristol Bay are needed for salmon unless proven otherwise. Salmon are the cornerstone of the region’s economy and culture and the BBAP should include additional mineral closing orders so salmon streams documented after 1984 are classified as habitat.
- Classify all moose and caribou wintering grounds; brown bear denning areas and caribou calving grounds as habitat. Also in Bristol Bay all streams where salmon spawn (whether navigable or not) should be classified as habitat.
I recommend the State of Alaska Department of Natural Resources incorporate the Citizen’s Alternative Bristol Bay Area Plan into the final 2013 Bristol Bay Area Plan. Thank you.
State, City, Zip ________________________
*Be sure to include in your letter if you are a commercial, sport, or subsistance fisher in the Bristol Bay region